City Food – Gur or Jaggery, Gurgaon
The gur of Gurgaon.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Gurugram’s name traces its origins to the ancient days of Mahabharat and means guru’s village. Its former name of Gurgaon too implied the same. Even so, it is possible for some of us to innocently misconstrue the etymology of Gurgaon as gaon of gur, the village of jaggery. Gur—that tasty lumpy mass of brown unrefined sugar that pairs perfectly with a glass of piping hot milk, or with wintertime sarson ka sag and makke ki roti.
Meanwhile gur is back in Gurugram. The jaggery sellers always return at this turn of the year. Such as Vendor Mahesh, intermittently pushing his cart this smoggy afternoon along a moderately crowded Roshanpura lane. The cart is stacked sparsely with coarse uneven pieces of gur, lying under a transparent sheet of blue net. It is Mahesh’s second day with the season’s jaggery. For the rest of the year, he sells fruit. “Gur arrives in the bazar at the start of winter,” he remarks, adding that the gur sold in the Delhi region is sourced from Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Murad Nagar, Amroha and other places in western UP. Bending his body, he lowers his voice, as if transporting a secret: “That area in UP is rich with sugar mills… gur comes from ganna (sugarcane).” Indeed, tomorrow is the festival of Ekadashi, the day the farmers across western UP traditionally start the harvesting of their sugarcane crop, selling most of their ganna to the sugar mills, and keeping some to make gur in their crusher machine.
Mahesh’s cart is filled with gur bearing varied shades (brown, gold) and varied textures- (smooth, rough). Picking up a fist-sized lump from beneath the blue net, he declares that despite their different appearances, these gur taste the same.
Mahesh’s assertion can be true only up to a point. A grocery in nearby Sadar Bazar sells far greater varieties of gur, and the grocer insists that each has its distinct flavour. At this busy hour, quite a few shoppers are checking out the grocery’s large spread, arranged on the street-side, beside the counter. One variety is embedded with peanuts. Another has the shape of a heart. The most unusual of these looks like a little heap of mitti—you would have tossed it away if you didn’t know it were gur. The kind grocer once helped The Delhi Walla identify each variety with its unique filling—pedi, batasha, papri, moongphali, chaku, dahiya, paneer. Such a smorgasbord of jaggery shall last in our markets until March, though two most basic versions remain in the bazar throughout the year.
Some time later, in Roshanpura, an elderly woman stops by Mahesh’s cart, examines the three types of gur with the investigative gaze of a connoisseur, gingerly picking up a ginger-like lump. Mahesh wraps it in an almost-matching brown paper.